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Thu, Feb. 27

Is 4FRI taking shape yet?
Forest Service extends closing date for second request for proposals; makes changes to contract length and biomass removal

A contractor works on a task order in Kaibab National Forest in December 2018. The U.S. Forest Service has extended the closing date of the RFP for Phase 2 of 4FRI. (Photo/Kaibab National Forest)

A contractor works on a task order in Kaibab National Forest in December 2018. The U.S. Forest Service has extended the closing date of the RFP for Phase 2 of 4FRI. (Photo/Kaibab National Forest)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — After considering comments from stakeholders, the Forest Service has made significant amendments to its request for proposals for Phase 2 of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), an ambitious plan to thin nearly 2.4 million acres of northern Arizona forests over 20 years.

The changes better address the 20-year contract period, the biomass removal measurements and the price redetermination.

The initial request for proposals were due Dec. 16, with contracts awarded in April. The amendment changes the due date to March 6.

“We heard feedback that dividing the contract into multiple periods made it look like it wasn’t a 20-year contract,” said Elaine Kohrman, with the U.S. Forest Service Southwestern Region.

Along with the 20-year contract period, the Forest Service and its partners wanted to ensure the economic price adjustments and price redetermination remained in alignment.

Kohrman said the Forest Service also received several comments regarding biomass removal.

“We received several questions about how slash removal would be measured, both in evaluating proposals and in the field during implementation,” she said.

The amendment includes an equation for calculating whether proposals meet the 50 percent slash removal and on-site disposal requirement.

The contract seeks to mechanically thin between 605,000 and 818,000 acres over 20 years. The Phase 2 performance area is a portion of the overall 4FRI footprint and covers 1,278 square miles of Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Kaibab and Tonto National Forests.

“The intent of the RFRP is to support existing industry, attract new sustainable industry and to significantly increase the pace and scale of forest restoration while creating jobs, restoring our forest, protecting communities and downstream water supplies,” said Cal Joyner, Regional Forester for the USDA Forest Service Southwestern Region in a statement.

Many have been frustrated at the slow progress of the first 10 years of 4FRI. The Forest Service set a goal of 30,000 acres per year to be thinned by the Phase 1 contractor, but so far only about one-third of the acres have been treated.

Good Earth Power AZ LLC holds the Phase 1 4FRI stewardship contract to treat 300,000 acres as part of the 4FRI. FEC Logging USA Holdings LLC, owns NewLife Forest Products and Good Earth Power AZ, LLC.

In October 2019, NewLife Forest Products officially broke ground on Windfall Sawmill, a new mill on Garland Prairie Road in Williams. According to officials with NewLife, the mill site had been under construction for several months and will be one of the most technologically advanced mills in the Southwest.

Stakeholders are hopeful the new mill will fast-track forest thinning in the Williams area.

In addition to the new mill, forest restoration stakeholders, state officials and other entities have been eagerly awaiting the release of the Phase 2 RFP to help accelerate thinning in Arizona forests.

In May 2019, Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) said she was dissatisfied with the Forest Service’s progress in efforts to restore Arizona forests and released a statement urging forest officials to open the second phase of 4FRI soon.

“Phase 2 RFP offers the Forest Service an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and get 4FRI back on track,” she said in a prepared statement.

The 20-year contract includes 374,000 acres in Williams, which equates to 18,700 acres per year.

Other areas under Phase 2 include: 50,000 acres in Black Mesa, 230,000 acres on the Mogollon Rim, 38,000 acres in Sierra Anchas, 100,000 acres in Upper Tonto and 26,000 acres in Tusayan.

The RFP requires detailed technical, financial and business proposals from bidders that demonstrate understanding of the available wood supply, biomass treatments and the project area’s physical and economic operating conditions.

The request for proposals is open to anyone in the forestry business. The Forest Service said they are looking for proposals that are sustainable, innovative, feasible and cost-effective. Those who apply will be required to provide detailed technical and business proposals that demonstrate an adequate understanding of the available wood supply, slash operations and physical and economic operating conditions.

The Forest Service is working in a partnership with the Salt River Project, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Commerce Authority and the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management who each bring a unique perspective to restoring National Forest Service lands.

Water from the 4FRI area flows into the Salt River Project’s reservoirs and the Bureau of Reclamation is the agency responsible for oversight of the Federal Reclamation Water Project which SRP operates.

The Arizona Commerce Authority oversees a variety of tax credits to facilitate job growth, including the Healthy Forest Tax Credit for forest related employers. The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management is tasked with the prevention, management and suppression of wildfires on state lands and unincorporated private lands.

Those groups will assist in the evaluation of proposals and make recommendations to the Forest Service, which retains the sole responsibility to award any contracts.

The 4FRI Phase 2 RFP is on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website (www.fbo.gov Solicitation Number 12-8371-19-R-4005). More information about the 4FRI is available at www.fs.usda.gov/4FRI.

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